Thursday, September 03, 2009

Return to Civility

I’ve decided I don’t want to be a conservative. Seriously. And being a liberal has decided disadvantages. Being stuck in the middle, though, is equally disturbing.

The more I think about it conservatives are a little grouchy and mean spirited. I think trying to preserve the public good and God’s reputation has made conservatives not all that fun to be around.

I want to be ‘for’ something. Not against everything.

When I listen to talk radio conservatives I find that they are against health care reform, presidents without a Rush approved version of a valid birth certificate, and they believe that liberals sit around all day trying to mess with both the Bible and the Constitution. How can somebody think like that all day, every day? What does that do to them?

Of course, I don’t know if I want to be a liberal. You see, I believe in something. I don’t believe in everything. Even though I like Barak I’m not sure he’s hitting the right notes right now. And I believe that too much government isn’t going to help us in the long run. Often I think liberals are pulling standards of right and wrong out of the air and not mining an authoritative source.

I’ve talked about all this before but honestly …aren’t you getting a little steamed about the polarized positions on both the left and the right?

Every once in awhile I listen to a radio show on WGN. It’s on about 9:00 every night. The host, a University of Chicago professor, is very bright. So are most of his guests. They have opinions but they do something very interesting. They actually listen to each other. They influence each other. They offer considered opinions. They exchange ideas. How novel.

The truth is that I’m almost afraid to speak my mind these days. Someone, somewhere is going to label me. And then I have to go on the defensive without being offensive. That’s harder than it looks.

You see, we don’t listen to each other anymore. Someone is reading this and is ticked that I mentioned Rush’s name in less than a positive manner. Will they ask me to express myself further? Nope. Probably not. They’ve got me labeled. Someone on the other side is furious that I insinuated that too many liberals believe in ‘not much’ or that Barak might be making some mistakes. So, he or she will get grumpy.

Seriously, I think we’ve lost the ‘art of curiosity’. We’re interested far more in our entrenched position than the truth. I honestly think that most people don’t know why they believe what they believe. And I'm not convinced most people are the least bit curious about why someone might actually believe something different than what they hold near and dear. They aren’t asking…“Could I learn something from someone on the other side of an argument or is there an articulate opinion on the other side of my stereotype? “ Nope. Let’s listen, instead, to any loudmouth that supports our position. Who cares about what others think? Let’s saddle up our horses and ride as fast as we can either to the left or to the right. Then, let’s lob verbal grenades at each other, stirring up hate. That’s the new American way I think.

Christians are sometimes the worst ideologues. In too many circles I dare not venture an opinion contrary to the opinion makers in the room. You all know why too. Who wants to be torn apart? Who wants someone doubting the authenticity of your faith just because you believe that ‘global warming’ might be true or that there is another way to look at a Scripture passage or you have an egalitarian view of women and ministry? In more liberal faith circles admitting you're pro-life or even admitting you believe that the Bible is God's word for today can possibly get you shunned.

It makes me wonder. Is it ever worth the trouble any more to cause trouble?

And the answer is ‘yes’. It's worth the trouble to cause trouble. We can’t stay quiet. But we don’t have to act like the insolent, entertainment and ratings driven drones on talk radio or cable TV. Let’s be honest. Enflaming the negative passions of just about anybody is as easy as 1,2,3. Cynicism and sarcasm come as easily as falling off a log. Utter a half-truth here, a half-truth there and before you know it there’s a forest fire filled with hearsay and innuendo.

To enter into a real dialogue, to really listen, to entertain a variety of opinions, to respect your opponent, and to even change one’s mind is the mark of true maturity.

I get the opinion at times that what we have is too many people on the immature right and too many on the immature left and we expect to come to rational conclusions about important issues. It isn’t going to happen. Won’t happen.

Let’s start a movement. Turn off the pundits who exist only to enflame passions. Start to read. Search the Scriptures and especially read any passage we don’t have underlined. Start to care about issues. Vote. Seek out different opinions. Be willing to be influenced. Write well reasoned letters. Agree to take a ‘time out’ if you start yelling. Let’s call our movement “A Return to Civility.” I wonder what would happen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you!